Copyright 1999 by Trauma, Research, Education and Training Institute, Inc.
What is psychological trauma?
• Psychological trauma is the experience of stress and distress that are too much to handle emotionally and psychologically.
• Traumatic stress is a natural reaction to a violent event (such as group violence, rape, other assault, accidents, and natural disasters) or to horrible chronic life conditions (such as poverty, neglect, and deprivation).
• Witnessing violence can also lead to traumatic stress.
• The essential ingredients are being overwhelmed emotionally and feeling like you are going to die or disintegrate (come apart).
• Secondary traumatic stress comes about when something awful happens to people we love or care about.
• Perpetrators too may experience traumatic stress.
Ø re-experiencing the traumatic event
Ø avoiding things that remind you of the traumatic events or circumstances
• Other typical problems people may experience as part of traumatic stress:
Ø Social problems and their psychological consequences
Ø Spiritual (meaning) problems
What do traumatized children look like?
• Withdrawn, quiet, shy, reserved, or "moody"
• Aggressive, hitting or biting others, calling names, bullying, provoking fights with adults or other children, or abusing younger children or animals
• Play out scenes of horrible events
• Return to behaviors they had "grown out of," like wetting the bed at night, sucking their
thumbs, talking "baby talk," or other, younger, behaviors.
• Harder to meet basic psychological needs, including:
Safety: the ability to feel that oneself and loved ones are secure and protected
Trust: the ability to rely on one's own judgment and to depend on others
Esteem: the ability to feel good about oneself and to value others
Intimacy: the ability to feel and understand one's own experience and to feel connected to others
Control: the ability to feel a reasonable level of control over one's own behaviors and to feel effective with others
Meaning: the ability to understand one's world and experience
• When we can't meet our basic needs in constructive ways, our relationships change.
Patterns and determinants of problems
Ø who that person is
Ø the available support.
Ø have less support or fewer meaningful connections with others
Ø have personal histories of psychological difficulties.
Important points to remember
1. The hallmark of traumatic stress is disrupted spirituality.
2. The context for traumatic stress following group violence is social disruption.
3. There are individual differences in traumatic stress.
4. People's responses and needs will vary across time and situations.
5. Symptoms are adaptations:
• Every symptom is an attempt to solve some dilemma or to meet some basic need.
Psychological trauma summary.doc